How to Run a Successful Grassroots Marketing Campaign [+ Examples]

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Rebecca Riserbato
Rebecca Riserbato


When I try to think of marketing campaigns that were emotional and memorable, one of the first ones that comes to mind is the Dove Real Beauty campaign.

The reason?

Dove uses grassroots marketing strategies to create targeted content that their audience wants to share with everyone they know.

As a marketer, that might seem like a daunting task. However, grassroots marketing can actually be cost-effective and achievable for any brand.

Below, let's review grassroots marketing from the best strategies to examples that'll inspire your own campaigns.

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Grassroots marketing is similar to viral marketing because the goal is to create content that your audience wants to share. However, this might be more cost-effective since you're building a campaign that's targeted at a smaller, specific audience.

These campaigns will be different from your everyday marketing campaigns because your goal is to inspire a small audience to take action. With other marketing campaigns, you're probably hoping to reach a large number of people. However, with grassroots marketing, you're creating highly specific content with the hope that your audience will share your message for you.

1. Know your target audience.

It's true, it's going to be important for you to know your audience for any marketing campaign. However, with grassroots marketing it's a necessity.

The entire concept of grassroots marketing is that your audience will share your content for you. Yet, they won't do that if your content doesn't inspire them to.

Before you get started with grassroots marketing, you need to know what motivates and inspires your audience. Figure out what they care about and create content surrounding that.

2. Get creative and inspire action.

Again, your grassroots marketing content should inspire your audience to take action. But you might be wondering, "How do I do that?"

One way is be creative and start a movement. Your content doesn't have to be political, but it has to be inspiring and relatable.

3. Focus on storytelling.

While I might be biased because I'm a writer, the best grassroots marketing campaigns are focused on storytelling.

Ideally, your content will explore your audience's emotions. For example, if your target audience is parents, you can create a video that's focused on the parent/child relationship. This will tug at their heartstrings and make them want to share with their friends.

In fact, think about grassroots marketing as a way to tell your audience's stories. If they feel represented by your content, they're going to share it wildly.

4. Start hyperlocal.

It might seem like grassroots marketing is about creating viral content, however, no grassroots campaign started that way.

With grassroots marketing, your content should be laser focused on your target audience. The goal is to attain national attention by sheer shareability and word of mouth.

5. Use reviews to your advantage.

One strategy for your grassroots campaign should be to focus on getting reviews. You should spend time building your reputation on Yelp or Google reviews so you can gain organic attention online.

For example, a year ago, I started to hear all about this thing called a Hydro Flask. I saw the reviews and heard people talking about it for months. I finally decided to buy one even though I had literally never used a water bottle in my day-to-day life before.

That's the result of a great grassroots marketing campaign.

With reviews from happy customers amplifying your message, you can reach people you weren't even targeting originally.

6. Create YouTube content.

YouTube is one of the best channels to disseminate your grassroots marketing content. On this social media platform, you can share highly targeted content that's educational, helpful, and emotional.

If your video continues to get shared by your audience, you can begin to reach even more people organically because your video might rank better.

Grassroots Marketing Ideas

1. Text your customer.

With grassroots marketing, it's important to get creative with how you reach your audience. One way to do this is to use text marketing.

With SMS messages, you can have a real conversation with your customers. You can learn about them, send them one-touch surveys, or offer targeted marketing based on their feedback.

The trick with text marketing is to only send messages to customers who have signed up to receive your texts. No one wants to get a random text from an unidentified number.

2. Include visuals.

Almost every grassroots marketing campaign should be focused around the visuals.

In fact, in a 2018 HubSpot survey, 54% of consumers wanted to see more video content from a brand or business they support.

Visual content is what your audience wants to see. Plus, the main idea is that grassroots marketing is shareable and visual content is easier to share.

3. Don't forget a call-to-action.

Not to beat a dead horse, but your grassroots marketing campaign should inspire action. To do this, you have to include a call-to-action in your campaign.

With successful grassroots marketing, your target audience has shared your content with their friends. Now that you have people's attention, you need to decide what to do with it. For example, you can ask people to donate to a cause or purchase a product.

4. Support a cause.

A quick and easy way to implement grassroots marketing in your strategy is to support a cause that your audience cares about.

When people see that your company is charitable, they're more likely to trust you and have positive associations with your brand.

You can support a cause by donating, encouraging your audience to donate, amplifying and representing the message of a cause, or listing the causes you support on your website.

When your content is focused around philanthropic efforts, your audience is more likely to share it.

5. Use influencers.

Influencer marketing is a modern day version of grassroots marketing.

The theory is that when influential people promote your brand, your audience is more likely to share that message and be inspired to take action.

To get started, you could send influencers in your niche free products, or discounts. Hopefully, that will inspire them to talk about your brand and spread the word.

Grassroots Marketing Examples

1. Extra Gum Commercial.

I don't typically cry when I see commercials on TV. However, Extra Gum has made me emotional with several of their grassroots marketing campaigns.

This first commercial tells the story of a father and daughter who bonded over making simple origami from Extra gum wrappers. This hasn't aired since 2015, but it was one of the first campaigns I thought of when I thought of grassroots marketing.

In this second commercial, we get to watch the love story of a couple who meets in high school, falls in love, and captures their love story by drawing on Extra gum wrappers. Again, this last aired over a year ago, but I remembered it because of the emotional storytelling.

Both these commercials are meant to tug at your heart strings and inspire you to share them with your family and friends.

2. ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

In 2014, the ALS ice bucket challenge went viral. The concept was that you would take a video pouring a bucket of ice water on yourself and then challenge someone else to do the same. If you participated, you were supposed to donate money to the ALS Association.

Before this campaign went viral, people weren't exactly talking about ALS. In fact, many people might not have even heard of the disease. That's how you know this was a successful grassroots marketing campaign.

It started with a small idea, and grew to a national campaign.

For this challenge to be shareable, everyone who participated had to nominate a friend to do it.

This grassroots campaign started a movement, inspired action, and supported a cause. Plus, celebrities and influential people got involved.

Below are a couple of images of the celebrities that participated in sharing the grassroots campaign.

Bill Gates participates in the ALS ice bucket challenge.

Image Source

Jimmy Fallon and the ALS ice bucket challenge.

Image Source

3. Dove Real Beauty Campaign.

This is one of my favorite grassroots marketing campaigns. That's why it bears mentioning twice.

In the Dove Real Beauty campaign, Dove had a forensic artist draw women as they saw themselves and then as strangers saw them.

This is an excellent example of what grassroots content will look like when you know your audience intimately. By knowing its audience of real women, Dove was able to start a movement. In fact, this video has over 68 million views on YouTube.

The powerful video barely mentioned the product, but inspired women around the world.

Grassroots marketing is a great way to focus on reaching your audience, with the hope that they'll share your campaign with people they know. Essentially, it's word of mouth marketing at its best.

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